Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Review! Creative Freewriting Adventure

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to review Philippians in 28 weeks by Homeschool Adventure Co. It was such a good experience. When I was asked to review their newest product Creative Freewriting Adventure I knew I could expect good things. 

I really like to write. I am not much of a fiction writer. Eventually all of my stories wind up being the same. A sassy, smart and sometimes fruity heroine has a wild adventure with a dragon, a talking frog and a yippy dog. She falls in love with a melancholy prince who likes folk music. 

Hey wait! This is kind of like my life! Without the dragon. And the talking frog. 

Nevertheless, I have always enjoyed creative writing. However, it’s often hard to teach. We do freewriting in a journal weekly, but Josiah usually is done after a few minutes. He generally needs more help that a simple journal prompt. 

Creative Freewriting Adventure is journal writing on steroids. It takes the simple idea of free writing for a set time. 

Here how it works. There are 10 lessons in the course. Each lesson begins with a whole story or essay about a person or topic. After the reading, the student is given a writing assignment. The assignment is not merely a “tell me what you think.” There are stimulating questions to prompt ideas. The student doesn’t have to worry about punctuation or spelling…they are just encouraged to write. 

The course is intended for middle and high school grades. Josiah is in 7th grade (WHAT?) this year. It appeals to me because there is entirely no prep work for me at all. I will have to be available (Josiah is dyslexic), but this is absolutely doable. 

I initially received the digital version ($18.95). I printed off the first couple of lessons so we could see what we thought. This past week I got the print version ($21.95) in the mail. So exciting. 

The first lesson was about Thales. He was an ancient Greek Philosopher who accurately predicted a solar eclipse. It was interesting reading. The assignment page was next.

You can see that Josiah was given quite a bit to think about while writing. Here are his first few sentences. 

While I was walking to the well late one night I saw a 
strange thing. An old man with long gray hair was leaning over the well. It looked like he was staring inside. He suddenly fell in the well. I went around running and screaming. Help! Help! Help!

I hope it ends well. Or at least a dragon shows up.

This is going to be a fun addition to our fall curriculum. It doesn’t take a lot of time and Josiah isn’t pressured to write a perfect essay. I like that the writing prompts are not only fun, but interesting and educational. Josiah doesn’t have to grab ideas out of thin air. I think it’s an especially good product for reluctant writers. But your voracious writers will enjoy it as well. 

Because this is a brand spankin’ new product, Home School Adventure Co. is offering free shipping on all book orders. Use the code cfa-ships-free when ordering. This coupon code expires 9/22/14.

Pre-order the print edition or download the digital edition for 50% off NOW! (Print books begin shipping the end of August.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FREE Grocery Store Printables for the Kiddos

Hi friends!

I've created some fun and FREE printables for your trips to the grocery store.

This first printable is for the littles. I've made them colorful. My suggestion is to print all of these printables and then laminate. Throw a dry erase marker in your purse and you're good to go. You can use them over and over and over. I know how those little kids are. It might even become a favorite activity at the grocery store (other than rearranging your cart).

(click on the pictures...the links will take you to googledocs)

The next printable uses environmental print. I used environmental print when I taught quite a bit. It's amazing what those littles can absorb just by providing them an print rich environment.

This next printable is for kiddos who are reading. It is a Grocery Scavenger Hunt. Complete with a sleepy owl.

 The last printable (this go around) is actually two pages....even though I only have the picture of one. It is a grocery store find that is a bit more involved. It has a place not only for the item (which requires a bit of hunting), but a place for the price and unit price or price per pound. I also put a place to write the down the location, department or aisle the item was found. 

I hope you find these helpful. Happy Shopping! 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A TOS Review: UberSmart Math Facts

Anyone has ever battled math and came out ahead knows that to even begin to succeed one must first master math facts. 

I feel like there should be ominous music in the background. Feel free to find some to play now.

This is something Josiah has struggled with. There is a percentage of kiddos with dyslexia who also struggle with math. In the early years, we faced quite a bit of frustration. 

Flash cards were used daily, but what Josiah might have seemed to have mastered one day he would forget the next. 

I haven’t learned the secret of teaching Josiah math, but I have learned that consistency (among a few other tricks) is key. He has a terrific long term memory so I knew that if he had mastered those math facts he would remember them for life. 

Waving around flash cards every day can get fairly monotonous. This why I was thrilled to be able to review a math review mastery program from UberSmart Software  called  UberSmart Math Facts

What I Received

I received a software program (download) of  UberSmart Math Facts. This program is intended for grades k-6th, but it is wonderful for those kiddos (like mine) who need extra practice. 

You will need Windows 7, 8, XP and Vista to run this program. 

It costs $24.95 which is a good deal considering you can add up to 8 students to your account. The program works on addition/subtraction up through the 9’s and multiplication/division all the way up to the 20’s. 

How it Works

I want to take you through some screen shots of our program. that little tab you can't see is the Report tab. I'm not sure why it's all scrunched up.


The LEARN tab teaches math facts. You are able to choose between beginner and intermediate. The beginner flashcards are called dot cards. We didn’t use this option, but you can see in the picture below what it looks like. 

The Intermediate option let me choose what he needed to work on ever day.

The screen would randomly bring up a flash card (in this case the 2's) and the student pushes "show" to see the answer. 

The PRACTICE section of the program was where Josiah spent the last part of his summer. Oh yes he did! You are able to choose again between beginner and intermediate. 
I had Josiah use the timed feature. He has gotten frustrated. I probably need to give him just a few more seconds. It is pretty fast. You can see in the card below I have not answered at all and the program showed me the correct answer in green. If has a "check" button to click after answering, but I was unable to catch all that in a screen shot.

The TEST portion of the program is all about (you guessed it) Tests! 

The idea is to beat the red time line. this program also gives you a look at the next flash card. I like that. It helps the student get their brain ready. 

After the test there is always applause (which I need on occasion) and the student is able to go back and look at what he or she missed. 

Man! Such an easy one. If the student clicks the "show" button it will give him the right answer. 

We didn’t use the COMPETE portion of the program very often. It is a timed flashed card test, but the results include what percentage the child falls with the average population. I didn’t want to scar Josiah for life. He’s just not ready for it. He can beat the average population with his freestyle stroke…not his multiplication tables. 
 You can see from this picture how you are able to set up the student for the competition. 

The Report portion of the program is super helpful. This was early in Josiah's journey. This was when he realized that he couldn't just put in any old number. I would find him out. Nobody likes a red frowny faces. Every color means something different. The dark green smiley face means that the student has mastered the fact. 

The Report section has all manner of handy tools available to help you keep track of your students progress.

How We Used It and What We Thought
When I first received the download I set up Josiah’s account. Under the MAINTAIN tab I was able to customize it for Josiah. It allowed me to even set how many seconds he was given to complete a problem. I like that I can change it at any time. It doesn’t require major set up on my part. It also requires a password every time to get into it.

As I mentioned this is program we have used quite a bit. Josiah does have a math book we go through daily, but this gives him the extra practice he needs. In fact, UberSmart Math Facts has become part of his daily independent assignments. 

I need notice that initially he was so freaked out by the timed portion of the tests that he started to guess. He just wanted to beat that red line. Punching in numbers doesn’t get anyone a good score. He was appalled to know that I not only could look up his score, but he would need to take the test over and over if need be. 
I have noticed a difference in Josiah’s ability to recall his math facts in general. I really am thankful to have been a part of this review. This has been a valuable tool for us.
I also appreciate that Ubersmart doesn’t rely on bells and whistles. It is a straight forward program. Josiah can sometimes get distracted by too much going on. This time he focusing on Just the Facts! (ma’am)

It is a product that we are going to keep in our daily rotation. There is a 30 day free trial available.
You can check out more reviews of UberSmart Math Facts by clicking on the banner below. 

Click to read Crew Reviews
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